While it may seem that this is not the time for a company to invest in solutions to long-term environmental problems due to a pandemic, it must be remembered that if we do not think about the future now, it may not come at all. In addition, a sustainable approach not only demonstrates corporate responsibility, but also allows for more effective competition.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are not a myth but a harsh reality. "If we don't change the way we manage the planet, it will only be able to sustain our economy for about another 10 years," said Dr. Lisen Shultz from the Stockholm Resilience Center. Whether the situation can be improved depends to a large extent on the willingness of companies to change their thinking and habits.
Why environmental issues are the responsibility of every business
At the forum "Sustainability - where will your business be in 2030?” taken place at the end of May, Andrejs Vasiļjevs, the Head of the company Tilde, emphasized that the pandemic is a catalyst for those processes that have been about to happen for some time.
A. Vasiļjevs pointed out that increasing profits as the main driver of business is an outdated approach, which has led to many problems, including climate change. A modern and far-sighted company needs to think about how to be part of the solution to these problems, not the creation.
The stories of more than 30 experts of the forum were united by a common idea — the concept of a sustainable approach is not a short-term fashion trend, but an acute need from which not only society and the environment will benefit, but also the company itself.
For example, by investing in the improvement of energy efficiency or the introduction of circulation principles, a company can significantly reduce its costs. On the other hand, using environmentally friendly modern technologies - to increase its competitiveness and save resources, an as a result to get a more loyal customer for whom it is important that the company acts responsibly.
Dr. Lisen Schulz reminds that any natural disaster caused by climate change has consequences for the economy and causes huge losses every year. However, she is convinced that it is not too late to act. Businesses need to change: from fossil energy to move to renewable energy, from linear economy — to circular economy, from exploitation — to regeneration.
“It is important for companies to do what pays off. Sustainability also pays off if it underpins goals, strategies and governance processes. Companies that take sustainability issues seriously will benefit, ”says Dr. L. Schulz.
How to implement sustainable solutions in own business
In theory, many things sound good and right, but for an active and growing company whose every day is already full of various challenges, the question of how to put theory into practice may seem difficult. Most importantly — where to start?
Experts recommend that any changes should start with a decision at management level. Only if the management agrees to include a sustainable approach in the company's values, there is a hope to implement it in everyday processes.
The next is the evaluation phase. Ivars Šmits, CEO of Lindström, a company representing the textile industry, recommends a more extensive assessment of the existing processes in order to understand what needs to be changed the most. For example, if production consumes a lot of water, the company can set a goal to implement a solution that would allow it to be reused.
Evija Šturca, Partner at KPMG Latvia, also urges companies not to try to operate on all fronts at once, but to start with what has the greatest impact. In addition, it is necessary to look not only at the processes within the company, but also at what the cooperation partners do, giving preference to those whose activities do not harm the environment.
And finally, the action plan. Jānis Grants, Chairman of the Board of DPD Latvia, says that the company he represents has identified CO2 emissions during deliveries as the biggest problem, so an ambitious goal has been set — to achieve zero emissions in all countries of operation by 2030. To achieve this, delivery cars with internal combustion engines are gradually being replaced by electric cars.
Zanda Šadre, Head of Corporate Communications at Rimi Baltic, advises companies to always be honest in their communication and not to say what they do not intend to do or engage in so-called greenwashing — sooner or later the public will know whether the company has really made investments or just engaged in loud marketing slogan spreading.
In turn, Mareks Račko, Technical and Development Director of JC Decaux, points out that even small changes in daily habits can help protect the environment, while creating savings for the company itself. As an example, he mentions the investments in training for employees to drive economically, which has enabled the company to reduce fuel consumption by 10% on an annual basis.
To become a green rocket, not a slow follower
Anna Ramata-Stunda, a researcher at the University of Latvia and the Member of the Council of JSC Madara, points out that in the context of environmental impact it is worth thinking not only about saving existing resources, but also looking at modern technologies and scientific discoveries to replace traditional production methods and resources with environmentally friendly alternatives.
By collaborating with scientists, companies can replace hard-to-reach or endangered raw materials with those produced in laboratories, without harming nature. For example, the fashion house Hermès recently presented a bag, the material of which is similar to leather, but made of mushroom mycelium.
In turn, Jānis Ozoliņš, Head of Corporate Banking and Real Estate Management at SEB, recommends that every company and individual always act as if we plan to stay here for a long time. He believes that companies should strive to become leaders in implementing sustainable environmental solutions — even if competitors do nothing, it is worth looking at the world's largest and most successful players, all of whom have included sustainability on their agenda.
In addition, one company can positively influence a range of others through its responsible actions — suppliers, cooperation partners and customers, encouraging them to adopt more environmentally friendly habits.
J. Ozoliņš believes that companies can choose to be slow followers who succumb only to external pressure, or fast followers who implement what others have already implemented, but can also become “green rockets” — those who are the first to introduce new technologies and methods and followed by the others. He points out that also in relations with banks and other financial institutions, the involvement of companies in the circular economy is assessed on more favorable terms.